Ken Adam

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Ken Adam

Kenneth Hugo «Ken» Adam (born Klaus Hugo Adam , Berlin, February 5, 1921-London, March 10, 2016) was a designer of British production born in Germany, famous for his designs for the James Bond films of the 1960s and 1970s.

Ken_Adam’s Biography

Childhood in Germany

Adam was born in Berlin, Germany to a Jewish family, the son of a former Prussian cavalryman, and his father and uncle, George and Otto, owned a successful haute couture clothing store, so the family was well-off The company S.Adam (Berlin, Leipziger Straße / Friedrichstraße) was founded in 1863 by Saul Adam. Adam was educated at the Französisches Gymnasium Berlin (French school in Berlin), and the family had a summer house on the Baltic Sea.

In 1933, the Nazi party rose to power. Adam saw the Reichstag fire from the Tiergarten that same year the family shop was forced into bankruptcy by the harassment of the Sturmabteilung, so a part of the family moved to England in 1934.



Adam was 13 years old when his family moved to England. Adam went to St. Paul in Barnes and then attended the University College of London and the Bartlett School of Architecture, to train as an architect.

Service in the RAF

When World War II began, Adam’s family were German citizens and could have been interned as enemy aliens. Adam was able to join the Pioneer Corps, a British Army support unit open to citizens of the axis countries resident in the United Kingdom and other Commonwealth countries, as long as they were not considered a security risk. Adam was seconded to design bomb shelters.

In 1940, Adam successfully applied to join the volunteer reserve of the Royal Air Force as a pilot. He was one of the only three pilots of German nationality in the RAF of the war (his brother was one of the other two.) Therefore, if he had been captured by the Germans, he was prone to execution as a traitor in instead of being treated as a prisoner of war.

Flight Lieutenant Adam joined the No. 609 squadron at RAF Lympne on October 1, 1943. He was nicknamed “Heinie the tank-buster” by his companions for his daring. of his exploits.The squadron flew the Hawker Typhoon, initially to support long-range bombing missions of the United States Air Force over Europe.He subsequently worked in support of ground troops, including at the Battle of the Stock Exchange. of Falaise at the Battle of Normandy.

In 1944 his brother Denis joined the No. 183 squadron, joining Adam on wing No. 123.


Adam first entered the film industry as a draftsman for This Was a Woman (1948). He met his Italian wife Maria Letitzia while filming in Ischia, and they married on August 16, 1952. His first screen credit was as a set designer in the 1956 British thriller Soho Incident. In the mid-1950s he worked (uncredited) in the epics of Around the World in Eighty Days and Ben-Hur. His first major credit was in Jacques Tourneur’s cult horror film Night of the Demon, and he was the production designer in several films directed by Robert Aldrich. In 1964 he created the famous war room for Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb by Stanley Kubrick. He rejected the opportunity to work on Kubrick’s next project 2001: A Space Odyssey after he learned that Kubrick had been working with NASA for a year on space exploration, which would put him at a disadvantage in the development of his art.

Adam made his name with his innovative, semi-futuristic sets for James Bond movies such as Dr. No (1962), Goldfinger (1964), Thunderball (1965), Only Living Twice (1967) and Diamonds Are Forever (1971). The set for the supertanker of The Spy Who Loved Me (1977) was the largest sound stage in the world at the time it was built. His last film Bond was Moonraker (1979).

Other notable credits from Adam include Michael Caine’s cult espionage thriller The Ipcress File (1965) and its sequel Funeral in Berlin (1966), Peter O’Toole’s version of Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1969) , The Footprint (1972), Kitty Hall (1976), Agnes de Dios (1985), Addams Family Values ​​(1993) and The Madness of King George (1994). He was also a visual consultant on the film adaptation of Dennis Potter’s acclaimed BBC miniseries Pennies from Heaven.

Adam went back to working with Kubrick on Barry Lyndon, who won his first Oscar. He also designed the famous car for the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang movie, which was produced by the same team as the James Bond movie series. During the late 70’s he worked on conceptual art for Planet of the Titans, a pre-production Star Trek movie. The movie was finally archived by Paramount Pictures.

Adam was a member of the jury at the Cannes Film Festival in 1980 and at the 49th Berlin International Film Festival In 1999, during the exhibition of the Victoria and Albert Museum «Ken Adam – Designing the Cold War» Adam spoke about his role in the design of the film sets associated with the 60s through the 80s.

Adam was nationalized as a British citizen and was awarded the Order of the British Empire for services to the film industry. In 2003, Adam was named Knight Bachelor for services to the film industry and Anglo-German relations.

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